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I Was There For The Golden Years : Stanley D. Petter, Jr.

August 2012

By Amy Fernandez

Named as AKC’s Hound Breeder of the Year in 2007, Stanley D. Petter, Jr. is celebrated for importing and breeding quality Greyhounds under the Hewly prefix. But outside of the dog fancy, he is acknowledged as one of the world’s most astute bloodstock agents. “I grew up showing saddle horses and recently someone asked me if I would do it over again.” Without hesitation he says, “I would do the horses in a minute. But, after seeing the sport at its zenith, I would not get into dogs today.”

Petter’s involvement in Greyhounds began in the early 1950s. His peers and mentors included some of the dog world’s immortal names. First among these were the amazing women of Andelys, Barbara Fallass and her daughter Susan Mason. Petter met them at his first GCA specialty. Although Susan Mason was at the top of the game and he was a rank novice, their shared appreciation for quality animals led to an immediate friendship. “Susie and I often talked about how important it was to understand horses in order to understand dogs. That is where you really get into the basics of form and function.” And he happily confesses that, “I was horse crazy when I hatched, and I have been horse crazy ever since.”

Born and raised in Paducah, Kentucky, Petter learned dogs and livestock breeding from his father and grandfather. At age six, his grandfather surprised him with his first horse. “He didn’t believe in ponies. He brought home this old gray work mare.” He had to climb up her leg to get on, but he had a horse. At age 11, he was upgraded to his first really nice horse. “He was sent to Helen Crabtree, the country’s best equitation trainer for Saddlebreds. She saw to it that I learned to ride him.” He began riding competitively and horses became the center of his social world and convenient transportation during the war years. “As I got older and wanted to go to town, I couldn’t drive because of gas rationing. So I rode my horse.” Petter fondly recalls riding all over western Kentucky with groups of friends. “In those days, no one worried about us, not until we started dating. Then my mother worried plenty.”

At 18, Petter became an English major at the University of Virginia. He spent his spare time foxhunting and capitalizing on his horse sense “buying hunters, slicking them up and selling them at a profit.” But he admits that he was totally out of his depth when it came to Greyhounds. “My first one was a track dog, which I received as a gift. I dragged that around the shows for a while.” Through the grapevine, he heard about a beautiful bitch, available for the freight charges from Chicago. This turned out to be Canyon Crest Coronation, bred by Margaret Bagshaw.

Bagshaw’s start in Greyhounds came in 1941 when Percy Roberts sold her Ch. Giralda’s White Knight. Imported by Geraldine Dodge in 1938, he was sired by Am. Eng. Ch. King of Trevarth out of Parcancady Girlie. Bagshaw also utilized Mardormere, Foxden and Montpelier stock, which traced back to the same rock solid Cornwall bloodlines. Petter says this was typical of most breeding programs. “There were very few dogs available back then. AKC registered about 60 Greyhounds per year. No one shipped bitches for breeding. Stud dogs were completely regional.” And British imports were the cornerstone of American Greyhound development. In 1953 Bagshaw’s import Ch. Viverdon Staffarella whelped a bitch puppy named in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation that year.

Petter admits that the deal sounded too good to be true. “Cory had been sold to Dr. Ralph A. Logan, a very well-heeled Chicagoan.” Logan was ahead of his time, indulging himself by randomly purchasing top show dogs and leaving their care to kennel managers and professional handlers. Cory, reportedly, didn’t get along with Logan’s kennelman. So, $34 dollars later she was in a freight car headed for Virginia. “I was there at the train station at 2:00 AM, anxious to see my shiny new dog. She arrived in a big box, not a proper dog crate. I opened the door and she shot out of there and was gone.” Petter dashed outside to find a cop sitting idly in his car. “I jumped in and told him to chase her.” (Imagine the fate of the average citizen who impulsively jumped into a police car today). “He was bored and happy to have something do.” Petter and the officer eventually cornered her between two buildings. “This would have been a very different story if he hadn’t been parked there.

“Once she bonded with me she was mine.” They bonded so strongly that Cory accompanied him when he joined the army and went to France in 1956. “They had good Greyhounds in France, but Cory was the best to come along in a while.” Within a year she was a French champion. “She won in Paris, Deauville, all the major shows. She broke her leg over there, and with everyone’s encouragement, I showed her with a pin poking out of her knee.” Better yet, she took the breed in Nice without being at the show.  “It coincided with the Suez Crisis. All leave was canceled, so I missed it. Later got a letter saying it was generally agreed that she was the best Greyhound in France, so they awarded her BOB anyway.”

Petter returned to graduate school in 1958 but, “By then I had racing in my blood.”  He regularly drove to Cross River, NY to spend weekends with his Greyhound mentor, Susan Mason. She facilitated his membership in GCA, which he called “a group of strong-willed individuals dedicated to the breed. This was not a buddy buddy organization. They were fierce competitors, but also respected one another.” Most importantly, “everyone had the same goals for the breed. There was no discussion about sloping pasterns, long feet, or flat backs.” They agreed on something else, for great Greyhounds, you went to Cornwall. “These wonderful old men would course them on the weekends and show them occasionally. A dog would catch someone’s eye and the next thing you knew; it was a BIS winner over here.” In 1951, Petter made his first trek to Cornwall to see firsthand. “It was all because of Susie. She insisted that I must go over and meet Jessie Prowse (Carnlanga) and Peter George (Parcancady). I learned so much from those men. I always called Jesse Mr. Prowse but Peter asked me to call him Peter. He never met a stranger, and he had such an eye for dogs.” Petter recalls Peter George asking his opinion of a puppy. “I mentioned that he didn’t have much spring of rib, and Peter shot back ‘Spring of rib. We’re not breeding Bulldogs you know’. I was honest enough to admit my greenness and it honed my eye.”

Peter George became known as the Wizard of Parcancady and his elegant, predominantly white hounds were instantly recognizable. This sounds romantic, but in Cornwall dog breeding was not a hobby. By the late nineteenth century, when Peter George was born, the region’s traditional economic strongholds of fishing, mining, and agriculture were on the rocks. Like many Cornishmen, Peter George knew his way around a Greyhound. But he also had the innovative sense to utilize this knowledge, and he needed to protect his reputation as a breeder. He usually culled his litters heavily at four and nine months, raised only the best, and eventually sold everything he bred. Another Snowdrop/Lad littermate was bred to her half-brother to produce two crucial brood bitches. Parcancady My Queen became a top producer, but she was overshadowed by Lady’s record of seven champions in six litters. One of these, Ch. Parcancady Lily, was imported by Tom Gately for the famed Mardormere kennel. Two others, Ch. Parcancady Heatherbelle and Ch. Parcancady Leader, went to Peggy Newcombe’s Pennyworth kennel.

“I was great friends with Peggy Newcombe. She also went to England looking for Greyhounds and Whippets. Somehow, we never managed to be there at the same time, but she also knew Peter George and Mr. Prowse. We were both disciples. They didn’t mind selling you a dog, but we got much more than that for the money we paid. We were houseguests, they took the time and interest.”

Petter recalls sitting up nights with Peter George studying pedigrees by the light of an oil lamp. “He couldn’t read, but he recalled every detail about those dogs.” Luckily, Mrs. George could read and write, and manage countless international sales transactions for their Greyhounds. “The wives of the coursing men always invited you to the kitchen for tea and scones.” He fondly recalls these cozy, kitchen chats in Cornwall, adding with a chuckle, “They wanted to fatten you up for the kill.” Income from dog sales kept these shoestring breeding programs afloat and probably paid a few grocery bills. Even so, this worldwide attention seemed somewhat unreal in Cornwall. “They would ask if it was true that Peter was well-known in America, and would be amazed when I answered yes.”  After a pause, someone would thoughtfully confirm Peter’s global status by adding, ’Yes, he’s also been to London.’ It was a very small world in Cornwall.”

Parcancady Lady’s fourth litter by Barum Carnlanga Conquest produced Parcancady Cherry, another important Mardormere stud, and the ill-fated Eng. Ch. Parcancady Lancer. “Susie had just bought Lancer,” says Petter, and with her blessing, Judy used him before he left. That was his last litter in England, and out came Treetops Hawk, and Treetops Liberty Light, and on and on.” Another regular stop on Petter’s British tours was the home of Judy De Casembroot and Bobbie Greenish. “They had a nice modern house in Gilford, Surry, with lights and running water. At Peter’s there was water, but I’m not sure it came out of a tap. And there were no lights.” He fondly recalls visiting with these likeminded dog people. “They were closer to my age. I don’t know how or why they got together, but they were a couple in every sense of the word. Bobbie came from an old, aristocratic family, and Judy had already made a name for herself with her Treetops Cockers. At some point they acquired an old Greyhound bitch and her daughter.”

Few names are as revered in the Greyhound world as Treetops Flicka of Canfield and her daughter, Penelope. Bred to Lancer in 1951, Flicka produced a red brindle dog,  Ch. Treetops Hawk. Winner of one BIS and 14 CC, he sired 30 champions. “It was THE world’s winning pedigree for a long time.” Petter explains that Hawk perfectly combined the assets of both Carnlanga and Parcancady. “The Carnlangas were big, bold, no-nonsense dogs with great bone. But toplines were never their strong point. Peggy (Newcombe) used to say that you had to cross them with Parcancady to get the grace and elegance.” Treetops Hawk sons bred back to Penelope produced “a type that had everything. Bobbie showed them. They had bone, without a trace of coarseness, great dispositions, and beautiful ring presence.” This combination produced the 1956 Crufts BIS winner Ch. Treetops Golden Falcon. Everyone repeatedly inbred and linebred to Hawk.” Petter compares his impact to that of the top Poodle sire, Puttencove Promise.

Peter George died in 1959, and the Last Parcancady litter by Hawk out of Carnlanga Topaz was whelped December 28, 1953.  It produced Bonny Lad, who sired the BIS winners Ch. Treetops Carnival Queen, Ch. Treetops Demon King, and Treetops Gypsy Queen. The litter also produced two Eng. Am. champions Seagift Parcancady Bluebell and Seagift Parcancady Royalton, owned and finished by Dorothy Whitwell. “When he started showing his dogs, Peter tied in with Dorothy Whitwell who had the Seagift prefix. She came from a very old North Country sporting family and she was a very good dog merchant. She took his dogs on and campaigned them. Through her the Parcancady line was spread.” In England, Bluebell won eight CCs and Royalton went BIS over 5800 dogs at Blackpool in 1958.

The Whitwell family home, Holystone Grange in Yorkshire, was another regular stop for Petter. “The dogs were kept beautifully and the kennel was built to look like a stable in miniature. I used to go to the track with her father, Major Renwick. His older brother was a Baronet, Sir George Renwick, who bred the Holystone coursing hounds.” (Best known for the 1953 Waterloo Cup winner Holystone Lifelong).

During one visit, Dorothy was showing Bluebell and Royalton, called ‘Brinnie’ for his brindle coloring. “We drove to some little show with Brinnie and Bluebell in the backseat of her little peewee car.” On the drive home, he glanced back and was enthralled by these two gorgeous dogs in repose on some cushions. “I said a kind word and extended my hand towards them. And Dorothy nearly drove off the road and wrecked the car yelling, ‘Watch your hand! Watch out for Brinnie!’”

Petter returned to America with both hands, and later imported Bluebell. She joined Coronation at his frat house at the University of Virginia and Annie Clark showed her on weekends. Annie’s assistant, Richard Bauer, made the early morning runs to fetch Bluebell for shows. “I am sure he called her when he came into my room to get her, but I never heard a thing. Later, I would wake up and find Cory alone on the dog bed. I would wake up Monday morning and Bluebell would be back there with her. On my dresser would be some ribbons, a trophy or two, and the tear sheets from the catalog with the Greyhound placements marked. Annie was such a meticulous record keeper. She used to say that she loved running her hand from Bluebell’s head down to her withers. She only said that about one other Greyhound, Punky.” Petter calls Ch. Aroi Talk of the Blues “the showingest Greyhound this country has ever seen.” Owned by Gloria Reese, she was the 1976 top ranked dog, and her record included 68 BIS, five specialties, and 168 groups, including back to back Westminster groups. She was line bred on Brinnie, who also made his way to America.

“He was originally purchased by Gordon Barton for Lee Bishop” says Petter. “The famous Tausky picture of him was taken at Gordon’s place in Virginia. Back then, Greyhounds were so phlegmatic.” And this famous photo was a stark contrast because Brinnie “appears ready to jump out of his skin.” His alert expression was achieved by a kennel man holding a cat just out of range. “He wore gauntlet gloves, but he was still cut and bleeding everywhere.”

Brinnie didn’t mellow with age. His trip to Westminster reinforced his fearsome reputation. “He got off the bench and ran up the isle; everyone was shouting and running like a lion was loose. People were afraid of him, and he was just terrible with other dogs.” Brinnie eventually ended up at Hewly. His next owner, John Hutchins, also found him to be a handful and traded him to Petter for half-interest in another Treetops Hawk son, Ch. Hewly Red Plume. Petter had no trouble with Brinnie and bred him with great success. But, he bit the kennel man and subsequently went to California. “Brinnie didn’t have a great topline and you can see that in the Greyhound toplines coming out of California in the ‘60s”. Overall, his impact on the breed was lasting and beneficial. It’s even more significant because Bluebell died suddenly, without contributing to the Hewly bloodline.

Possibly the best known Hewly hound is Ch. Hewly Histrionic, whelped in 1981. The famed judge and breeder of Trivelda Irish Setters, Ted Eldredge, set her career in motion. “Ted and Anne were over for dinner and afterwards we walked out to look at the dogs.” They asked why this beautiful bitch was sitting in his kennel, and Petter admitted that he simply didn’t have time to show her. “Before they left, they asked if it was okay to call Kenny Murray.” Leased by Bob Maytag and handled by Murray, she went on to win GCA specialties in 1985, 1986, and 1987. She produced Ch. Hewly Hispanic II, top Greyhound in 1992 and 1993, and sire of specialty winner Ch. Hewly Hit the Roof.

“Knowing that a dog won a lot is one thing, but you must understand its strengths and weaknesses before you breed it.” Petter calls Alva Rosenberg the consummate expert on pedigree evaluation. He got an impromptu demonstration of Rosenberg’s phenomenal skill when they met at an Indiana show. “I was carrying two Greyhound puppies and Alva walked by. He commented that they were nice and asked how they were bred. After telling him who they were out of, Rosenberg turned to his friend and, without a pause, recited three generations of their pedigree. And he could do that in all breeds. Where did people like that go?”

Alva Rosenberg and Percy Roberts became two of his closest friends. “Percy stayed with us often, and we didn’t just talk dogs. He was so interesting and well-informed. Back then, people were expected to carry their weight in a conversation. Like everyone who grew up before radio and television, he was a master communicator. His voice rose and fell with the drama of the story.” Roberts also gave him invaluable advice. “I had very showy dog called Hyperion and a friend was trying to talk me out of selling him. Percy overheard this. He told me to always go for it when you can make a little money selling a dog.

“As a wedding present Percy gave me all of his Greyhound tack, leads, couplings, and beautiful collars.” Petter married in 1961, and in 1962 the newlyweds purchased Hurricane Hall, in Lexington, KY, a name synonymous with fine Thoroughbreds for decades. Petter earned an international reputation as a bloodstock agent by spotting winners like Be My Native and Akissforluck. He is also known as the Weanling Man for pioneering the industry practice of prepping and selling weanlings.

Selling horses under one year of age isn’t unprecedented, but “no one had ever before sold all of their foals as weanlings.”  Petter admits that he was initially ridiculed. “I only did it because of a bad yearling sale that year. I could not train all these horses. I had to move some horseflesh and get some money in.” The successful gamble attracted many European buyers. “They wanted our blood but not our finishing methods.” That wasn’t his only innovation. While training his weanlings, he realized that the commonly used chiffney bit could be especially painful and traumatic for them. So he designed a bit for his foals based on the straight bar overcheck bit used for driving horses. It’s much kinder.” Today female jockeys and trainers are not unusual. In the late 1960s he also broke new ground by hiring female crews to care for his horses. Several women responded to his help wanted ad in a local college newspaper and he was impressed by their talent and genuine desire to work with horses.

His varied, successful career in the horse world never diverted his fascination with dogs or genuine dog people. “One year, I was at Westminster with a friend and we ran into Miss Iris de la Torre Bueno. He introduced us, and I would have loved to talk with her. But she was rushing off to see the new Bouvier. That says so much. That woman was a queen in Toy breeds, but she had to see this Bouvier. The energy and enthusiasm of that generation was amazing. And I was lucky enough to be in that milieu.”

When Petter began judging in 1971 another mentor, Bill Brainard, offered some rather basic, but truly valuable advice. “No matter how many times you judge a breed, always re-read the standard before you start. You may not have thought about a particular virtue or fault for a while, but something will stick in your mind, and it will jump out at you when the dogs come in the ring.” Bill Brainard is known as a Terrier expert, but his appreciation of good dogs wasn’t limited to that group. “Bill did a Foxhound show 40 years ago and he gave this gorgeous bitch Best In Show. He went over her in his critique, describing her ideal feet, lovely head, etc. and he said, ‘if a long neck is a luxury, she is luxurious.’ I’ll never forget that.”

After being approved for Greyhounds, Petter applied for more breeds. Len Brumby insisted on giving him a few extras. “I told him I had never been around Harriers. He said they are between a Foxhound and a Beagle, you will understand them. He had known me since I was a kid. I guess he saw how fervent and honest I was. Whether I knew what I was doing was another matter.” AKC’s approval process has definitely changed, but history confirmed Brumby’s hunch.

Recently, he judged an entry of 80 for the bench show at a Foxhound field trial. “They were varying degrees of awful. There among these pitiful things was one of the most gorgeous dogs I’ve ever seen. He was footsore with tears in his ears, but he just stepped off the pages of the standard.” Noting that “a judge’s goal is consistency,” he admits that the selection process isn’t always straightforward. “You must assume that they are all of equal hunting ability, so which one is best constructed to do the job. When the Foxhound standard was written everyone was aimed in the same direction. But this is no longer so. It’s become compartmentalized into mounted hunters, nite hunters, and a different hound is needed.”

He acknowledges that there are legitimate reasons to change breeds, “But the beauty is still in breeding for function. This is an art form that used to be practiced by so many people.” I saw a recent article comparing Greyhound, Whippet, and IG silhouettes, and the Greyhound drawing was far worse than any track dog. The first thing any animal must have is balance. I realized that no breeder under age 50 has actually seen a ring full of beautiful, properly constructed Greyhounds. And no judge under 50 has ever compared dogs of this caliber and tried to decide which of these gorgeous things to put up. If this goes for Greyhounds, it goes for every breed. The whole emphasis is so different.

“I was there for the Golden Years.”

Parcancady

Peter George was born in Cornwall in late 1800s. Like most of his countrymen he coursed Greyhounds, which Petter calls the sole recreational sport on this isolated rocky peninsula off Britain’s southwest coast.  “When Peter was 40, a man came up to him at a coursing meeting and said, ‘Boy, you know you could make more money breeding show dogs from that bitch than you will ever get breeding coursing dogs out of her.’ And the boy, age 40, proceeded to do just that.”  In 1930, his foundation bitch Bostraze Queen was bred to Butcher’s Baron,  and from that litter George kept Parc-An-Cady Girlie. The name Parcancady came from his home town. By the time he got around to registering it as a kennel prefix 16 years later, it was a household name to Greyhound fanciers.

Girlie produced Eng. Ch. Fair Girl, and George finished her in straight shows in 1936. “He did something that was phenomenal for a poor Cornishman in those days.  He went to Crufts. He would sit up all night in the baggage car with his dogs from Penzance to London.  And when he got to the show they did very well.”  Girlie’s next  litter produced  Eng. Ch. White Snowdrop, and Eng. Ch. Sporting Lad, a pivotal stud in Jesse Prowse’s Carnlanga breeding program.  This combination also produced Am. Ch. Giralda’s White Knight, sold to Dodge, and later owned by Canyon Crest.

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Posted by on Aug 14 2012. Filed under Current Articles, Dog Show History, Featured, In The Spotlight, Remembering Our Past?, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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